Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Twinkie, Deconstructed (copy)

Have you seen the movie WALL-E yet? I will try not to tell you too much if you have not. WALL-E is a garbage robot left on planet Earth to clean mass amounts of debris while humans wait on spaceships for the all-clear to return. Seven hundred years have gone by since the human mass departure and WALL-E is practically the only robot still functioning.

He remains operational by removing parts from others of his kind, and has a little cockroach friend for companionship. Like curious humans, WALL-E is attracted to shiny small objects he finds in the trash heaps. In his small garbage truck he has quite the cache with jewelry, toys, plastic cutlery, etc..

Although WALL-E is solar powered, his little friend cockroach needs food. On this barren Earth, what is a roach to eat? Why a 700-year-old-Twinkie! WALL-E seems to have collected those, too.

I bet you are nodding your head and saying, “well, yeah,” right now. This urban legend is widely known, but Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkie, Deconstructed, claims the soft sponge cake has a shelf-life of 25 days. Although, it is true, without preservatives it would not last past a day.

How does one man come to write 268 pages on the sweet all-American snack? It was a hot summer day and dad was enjoying the creamy delicious treat while his son stood nearby eating ice cream. As was Ettlinger’s habit, he flipped the package over to read the ingredients aloud. When he was finished his son innocently asked, “Daddy, what’s polysorbate 60?”

It was at this point Ettlinger realized he had a problem. He enjoyed fielding questions from his son, but this one stumped him. Did it come from the fruit of a sorbate tree? Was it a distant cousin of soy beans? Could it be a new vitamin on the market? For that matter, is polysorbate 60 in the ice cream his son was currently eating?

Ettlinger writes a chapter for each ingredient found in a Twinkie-like cake. The company, that makes Twinkies, refused him the full recipe and its trademarked name. They only work with writers “who are merely reminiscing about their sweet childhood memories.”

Follow along on Ettlinger’s quest as he dissects the ingredients to explain what is grown, made, and mined.

Note: Fourth book for Joy's Non-Fiction Five Challenge.

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